Officials who work Major League Soccer games are paid based on experience. Referee experience is based on the number of regular-season and playoff games worked and is set in an MLS scale that is comprised of four levels. There are three additional pay brackets for officials in each game based on duty -- referee, assistant referees and fourth official.
Level 4 Officials
Level 4 officials are the most experienced officials on the field and have 76 or more games under their belts at the start of the MLS season; all FIFA officials have Level 4 status. According to the 2009 MLS Referee Manual, Level 4 referees earn $875 per game, assistant referees earn $495 and fourth officials earn $285.
Level 3 officials have less experience, from 41 to 75 games, and earn less per game. Level 3 referees earn $775 per game, assistant referees make $360 and fourth officials make $260, according to the MLS Referee Manual. Level 2 referees -- 21 to 40 games -- make $670 per outing, assistant referees make $310 and fourth officials earn $230. Level 1 officials have 20 games or fewer experience; referees earn $565 per game, assistant referees earn $255 and fourth officials earn $205.
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The per-game salary for officials during the playoffs and for the All-Star Game is higher than during the regular season. Referees earn $1,000 per game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, assistant referees get $520 and fourth officials earn $350. In the second round of the playoffs and for the All-Star Game, referees earn $1,200 per game, while assistant referees earn $525 and fourth officials earn $450. During the MLS Cup, referees earn $1,500, assistant referees earn $750 and fourth officials get $600.
Officials who have worked at least five regular-season games before the All-Star Game are eligible to receive bonus pay, according to the MLS Referee Manual. The bonuses are determined from each official's U.S. Soccer and Canadian Soccer Association assessment scores. The top five referees in the league get $1,500 each, and the top five assistant referees get $1,000. Another bonus is awarded under the same structure for those who work five games between the All-Star Game and the end of the season.